Arkansas Crime

The Arkansas Supreme Court has ordered a resentencing for an inmate who has served nearly 40 years in prison for a crime committed when he was 16 years old.

Billy Ray Smith, who is now 59, challenged the life sentence he received in Pike County for rape. Smith, who represented himself in court filings, argued that a life sentence without parole for a non-homicide offense was illegal for a juvenile, and the state's highest court agreed on Thursday.

The court sent Smith's case back to Pike County Circuit Court with orders that his sentence be modified to 50 years.

Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner speaking to the Political Animals Club
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

Little Rock’s Chief of Police gave a wide-ranging speech Wednesday that touched on community policing, crime, department policies, and his opposition to medical marijuana ballot proposals. 

Chief Kenton Buckner addressed members of the Political Animals Club at the Pleasant Valley Country Club.

A Little Rock woman has pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud a federal government food program. Court records show that 50-year-old Maria Carmen Nelson pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to commit wire fraud.

In exchange, 20 additional counts of wire fraud were dismissed. U.S. Attorney Christopher Thyer says Nelson defrauded nearly $576,000 from a U.S. Department of Agriculture program intended to feed children in low-income areas during the school year and is administered by the state Department of Human Services.

prison jail department of correction
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

For the first time in over 20 years, Arkansas prisoners will have access to federal grants to go to college.

Shorter College in North Little Rock has been selected by the U.S. Department of Education as part of a three year experiment to send inmates to school.

Shorter College says it will offer a two-year associate degree in business to 250 selected inmates as part of the program.   

A view of the Jefferson County Courthouse in Pine Bluff from inside the historic, but crumbling Hotel Pines.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Nine Pine Bluff police officers returned their Medals of Valor on Thursday after the city council directed scrutiny over why they were awarded. KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman spoke with council member Thelma Walker about a police shooting and the death of a 107-year-old man.

Little Rock police have identified a man who died in police custody after officers said he resisted arrest as a Stuttgart man.

Police said Saturday that 22-year-old Marcus Sexton was pronounced dead at a hospital where he was taken when he became unresponsive after being arrested.

Police have said the officers were investigating reports of a suspicious person in a trailer park in southwest Little Rock Thursday night and found Sexton wearing only shorts and acting erratically.

The Arkansas Supreme Court is denying a request by eight death row inmates to appeal a decision that upheld the state’s execution secrecy law. But the court is also delaying its order as the inmates request a hearing from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Arkansas says it has a new supply of a drug used for lethal injections that had expired last month, potentially clearing the way for the state to resume executions after a decade-long hiatus.

The state Department of Correction on Tuesday said it had received a supply of vecuronium bromide with an expiration date of March 1, 2018. The state's previous supply of the paralytic expired on June 30.

The announcement comes less than a month after the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld a state law that keeps information about lethal injection drugs confidential.

Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Scores of young people made up the bulk of a diverse crowd about 200 on the state Capitol steps on Friday, calling for an end to police violence against African-Americans. The show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement came after the latest round of national incidents involving police officers killing seemingly cooperative young, black men. Organizers under the auspices of Hands Up, Guns Down also unequivocally condemned the killing of police officers in Dallas.

Governor asa hutchinson talk business & politics
Talk Business & Politics

In response to three nationally related episodes of gun violence and escalations between police officers and citizens, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said leaders must “calm the waters” in an effort to curtail overreactions to these violent and volatile situations.

“Most importantly, we need to make sure that we talk with reason and discipline as we discuss these matters. Leaders should not be encouraging and dramatizing the response beyond what it should be. The key thing here is our commitment to the rule of law,” he said.

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